Monday, 28 November 2016

Potential conflicts around the globe for Donald Trump, the businessman-president

MANILA, Philippines — On Thanksgiving Day, a Philippine developer named Jose EB Antonio hosted a company anniversary bash at one of Manila's poshest hotels. He had much to be thankful for.

In October, he had quietly been named a special envoy to the United States by thePhilippine president, Rodrigo Duterte+ . Antonio was nearly finished building a $150 million tower in Manila's financial district — a 57-story symbol of affluence and capitalism, which bluntly promotes itself with the slogan "Live Above the Rest." And now his partner on the project, Donald Trump, had just been elected president of the United States+ .

After the election, Antonio flew to New York for a private meeting at Trump Tower with the president-elect's children, who have been involved in the Manila project from the beginning, as have Antonio's children. The Trumps and Antonios have other ventures in the works, including Trump-branded resorts in the Philippines, Antonio's son Robbie Antonio said.

"We will continue to give you products that you can enjoy and be proud of," the elder Antonio, one of the richest men in the Philippines, told the 500 friends, employees and customers gathered for his star-studded celebration in Manila.

Antonio's combination of jobs — he is a business partner with Trump, while also representing the Philippines in its relationship with the United States and the president-elect — is hardly inconsequential, given some of the weighty issues on the diplomatic table.

Among them, Duterte has urged "a separation" from the United States and has called for US troops to exit the country in two years. His anti-drug crusade has resulted in the summary killings of thousands of suspected criminals without trial, prompting criticism from the Obama administration.

Situations like these are leading some former government officials from both parties to ask whether US reaction to events around the world could potentially be shaded, if only slightly, by the Trump family's financial ties with foreign players. They worry, too, that in some countries those connections could compromise US efforts to criticize the corrupt intermingling of state power with vast business enterprises controlled by the political elite.